|Hope for the children of Afghanistan.|
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By Jane O'Brien
NEW YORK, 30 September 2005 – UNICEF’s Regional Director for South Asia is calling on the international community to make an “ironclad commitment” to rebuilding Afghanistan.
Cecilia Lotse visited the country this summer. She told UNICEF’s Executive Board – meeting in New York 28-30 September – that while tremendous progress had been made, more needed to be done.
In an interview after the meeting she said: “There needs to be an ironclad commitment from the international community to continue supporting the government of Afghanistan as it tries to rebuild after the ravages of this long war.”
Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest infant and under-five mortality rates. Ms. Lotse says the maternal mortality rate is “staggering,” with 1,600 women out of every 100,000 dying from childbirth-related causes. In some areas the figure rises to 6,000 per 100,000.
Improving the health of women and children in Afghanistan is a UNICEF priority, along with child protection, water and sanitation and education.
“Education is key,” says Ms. Lotse. “We need to make sure that the children of Afghanistan are equipped to rebuild the Afghanistan of tomorrow. And we need to make sure that girls are not left behind again.”
Ms. Lotse says her strongest memories of her visit are of the faces and eyes of the children she met. “Their eyes were so vivid, full of hope, full of energy, full of enthusiasm and full of excitement. But there were also eyes that were quite haunting, beseeching and bewildered, and there was the sense of the children being much too knowing of the fragility of their situation.”